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Some 190,000 Chinese were being held in 320 re-education centers in 2009, according to a UN Human Rights Council report in addition to an estimated 1.6 million Chinese held in the formal prison system.
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China to Stop Sending People to Labor Camps
The London Telegraph
China will stop sending people to labor camps, the country's incoming security chief has said, after years of international criticism.

Meng Jianzhu told a legal conference in Beijing that the Communist party had finally decided to "stop the use" of the "reform through labor" system and will pass new regulations at an annual meeting of the Chinese parliament in March.

He also promised, according to Chen Dongsheng, the head of the Legal Daily newspaper's Zhejiang bureau, that there would be an immediate halt to sending "repetitive and troublesome petitioners", those who travel from their home provinces to Beijing to complain to the government, to labor camps.

China has been debating how to change its labor camp system for much of the past decade. A relic of the 1950s, the reform, or re-education, through labor system allows the police to imprison offenders for up to four years without trial.

Some 190,000 Chinese were being held in 320 re-education centers in 2009, according to a UN Human Rights Council report in addition to an estimated 1.6 million Chinese held in the formal prison system.

Human rights activists said the detainees currently within the system were unlikely to be immediately released, but that no new prisoners would be added. However, they cautioned that the government has yet to announce the details of what scheme will replace the current system.

Last year, four major Chinese cities began trialing a pilot system, called "education and correction of violations".

Details of the pilots have not been released, but detainees are thought to receive more thorough investigations into their offences and to be sent to holding centers that are more humane.

"The corrections centers do not have iron bars on the windows or doors and inmates are permitted to go home at the weekend," said Wang Gongyi, the vice chief of the policy research center of the Justice ministry.

However, there has yet to be any announcement on which part of the Chinese government would have authority over the new system.

The biggest complaint that human rights advocates have with the reform through labor system is that it operates outside of the law courts, with the police responsible for sentencing offenders.

Human Rights Watch has noted that this violates international law, and Mr Wang has also said in the past that it contravenes parts of the Chinese constitution.


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